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Progression of the Interlude:
An ardent takes on a new protege; she is less than amenable to the guidance he attempts to give her; the character and conduct of the Queen are called into question; wasted food is contemplated; the character and conduct of the Alethi elite are called into question; the Almighty and the Heralds are called into question; a choice is made; the Queen is condemned as all the ten fools; a protege is executed; riots begin.
Quote of the Interlude:
|“|| "Don't you even wonder?" she asked, staring at those piles of refuse, rain pattering just beyond. "Don't you stop to think about the cost of your gluttony?"
"Cost?" he asked. "I told you nobody starves because we - "
"I don't mean the monetary cost," she whispered. "I mean the spiritual cost. To you, to those around you. Everything's wrong."
"Oh, it's not that bad," he said, settling down.
"It is. Lhan, it's bigger than the queen, and her wasteful feasts. It wasn't much better before that, with King Gavilar's hunts and the wars, princedom against princedom. The people hear of the glory of the battle on the Shattered Plains, of the riches there, but none of it ever materializes here.
"Does anyone among the Alethi elite care about the Almighty anymore? Sure, they curse by his name. Sure, they talk about the Heralds, burn glyphwards. But what do they do? Do they change their lives? Do they listen to the Arguments? Do they transform, recasting their souls into something greater, something better?"
"They have Callings," Lhan said, fidgeting with his fingers. Digiting, then? "The devotaries help."
She shook her head. "Why don’t we hear from Him, Lhan? The Heralds said we defeated the Voidbringers, that Aharietiam was the great victory for mankind. But shouldn't He have sent them to speak with us, to counsel us? Why didn't they come during the Hierocracy and denounce us? If what the Church had been doing was so evil, where was the word of the Almighty against it?"
Development of the Interlude:
Lhan has suave contempt for his monarch.
|“||"Queen Aesudan likes to feel that those around her are refined. It makes her feel refined by association."||”|
Does this imply that the queen is not refined, whether it’s in her speech, or her tastes, or ... whatever? It reeks of condescension.
|“||"The queen figures that if she treats her ardents well, it will buy her favor with the One who makes the storms, so to speak. Nice food. Nice robes. Fantastic quarters. Lots of free time to do whatever we want. We get these things as long as she thinks she's on the right path."||”|
The cynicism behind this attitude says a lot about Lhan. It also says these ardents are the kind of people that take advantage of the queen’s bad behavior, uneasy conscience, and lame theology to make sure they have an easy, luxurious life. They certainly can’t be bothered to consider how their wastefulness might actually affect other people, nor how it must look to the people of the city.
Just how is it that Navani left Kholinar completely in Aesudan’s hands, with the claim that "the queen is sufficiently endowed with the requisite skills to hold Alethkar." Did she really think Aesudan was doing a fine job? Did Navani not care about this kind of behavior? Pai certainly seems to indicate that it’s not a new thing, so Navani must have seen it. Did she simply lack the authority as Dowager Queen to do anything about it? Or did she decide that what little she could do in Kholinar was insignificant compared to what was happening out on the Shattered Plains?
Perhaps, compared with an approaching Desolation, a greedy and debauched queen in Kholinar is insignificant - but the stability of the kingdom isn’t, and that’s about to go up in flames. Between the riots and the Everstorm, Kholinar will likely be a right mess by the time anyone gets back to it.
This Interlude takes place sometime during the Weeping, but obviously before the arrival of the Everstorm. So, somewhere between Day 2 and Day 14 of the expedition; in terms of countdown, somewhere between 7 and -5.
There’s a section in which is described the art, architecture, and geological features of the monastery, palace and city. Brandon opens this descriptive passage with the Circle of Memories, then proceeds to the city, and (after some conversation) to the palace’s grand eastern hall.
They passed into the Circle of Memories, a round room with ten lamps on the walls, one for each of the ancient Epoch Kingdoms. An eleventh lamp represented the Tranquiline Halls, and a large ceremonial keyhole set into the wall represented the need for ardents to ignore borders, and look only at the hearts of men ... or something like that. He wasn’t sure, honestly.
Palah, the Scholar, may be here to supervise Pai’s evaluation of Queen Aesudan's conduct and her careful explanations thereof. Ishar the Priest could be here for the Ardentia in general. Or he could be here mockingly, as what the Ardentia are only pretending to be. Or he could be here for Pai’s concern for theological truth. He's got lots of reasons to be here.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson